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McKinsey Operations application process: numbers and differences

BCG McKinsey and Bain Mckinsey operations operations
New answer on Aug 03, 2019
1 Answer
3.3 k Views
Anonymous A asked on Aug 03, 2019

Hey Everyone,

After some convoluted referral process, I got approached by the McKinsey Operations EMEA recruiter, who seemed to really like my profile and reckons I'd be an excellent fit for the product development division (which sounds very interesting, but I have no experience in that?! I have a doctorate in engineering from a top university though).
As I am preparing for other strategy firms (for strategy roles), I wanted to ask what are the critical differences in the cases. I have so far experienced mixed reviews but practicing cases labeled as 'operations', I am not sure I see any significant difference in the approach.
A second question refers to the numbers: I know operations is growing fast, yet there are far fewer applicants than for pure strategy. Does anyone have some hard numbers on the acceptance rate in operations?

Finally, McK has offered me some coaching ahead of the first phone case interview in a few weeks' time. How does this phone interview differ from the others? I know it is a single case, I am not sure I feel very comfortable having to play my chances in a single case interview without the chance to make it up in the following case.

Thank you!

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replied on Aug 03, 2019
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


1) I believe it's hard to find the acceptance rate, but the approach to interviewing is very similar. You will have both classic and ops cases. I would assume that the chances are very similar to the generalist

2) The phone interview is a simplified version of the regular interview. You'll have a simple case. Pls take the proposed mock interview

There are several types of operational cases that you may have:

1) Operational math problems. (e.g. Should we increase the speed of the elevator or just buy a second one? How should we reduce the queues? How should we increase the output of a factory?).


  • Usually, you have to look at the process. Even the most complicated systems have the inflows and outflows

The key concepts that you have to learn:

  • Capacity and utilization (both machine and people)
  • Cycle time, Throughput time, Little's Law
  • How the does lowest cycle time influence the production? (Lead time = cycle time of the slowest process)
  • How can we mitigate the bottlenecks with low cycle time? (Buffer, Parallel process, speeding up)

2) Cost cutting cases


  • What is the cost composition and what are the biggest costs
  • Benchmarking of the biggest costs to find the improvement potential
  • Process improvements to meet the benchmarks
  • Costs and benefits of the proposed initiatives

The key concepts that you have to learn:

  • Internal / external benchmarking
  • Idle time
  • Core processes (usually are optimized) and the supporting processes (usually are cut)
  • Math structures (Frequency of operations * time per operation)
  • Other useful structures (e.g. people - process - technology)

Feel free to reach me for further help with these cases.

3) Bottleneck cases (e.g. Huge write-offs in the meat store or bottleneck on the bridge)


You draw a value chain and go through it to find a bottleneck.

E.g. for the meat write-offs it will be:

  • Supplier issues (packaging, meat quality, warehousing)
  • Transportation (Length, fridges)
  • Store (Refrigerators in the warehouse, in-store fridges, demand for meet)


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Vlad gave the best answer


McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School
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